Exceptional People in a One-Horse Town, Part III
This is the forth in a series of an unknown number of articles highlighting a little piece of Americana. The people to be featured in this series of blog postings are just a few of the exceptional people I have the honor of knowing in my home town.
III-A: John, a very exceptional person, is the subject of a previous posting: "My Best Friend John".
III-B: Walter is a gentleman. An honorable man. A good Christian man. For years the treasurer of his church. A devoted family man. About the only person, outside my family, who has access to a key to my house, and to the home of my mother as well.
A retired textile supervisor, he enjoys doing yardwork and gardening. It is now his vocation as well as his hobby. I was lucky to have found him shortly after I moved back to my home town. He was helping out a handful of people, doing yardwork, on a part-time basis then. Now, many years later, he still helps me keep my yard presentable to the neighborhood. His mastery of his skills is extraordinary. If Walter would plant a stick in the ground, it would sprout leaves and grow. His own yard is a showplace of a wide variety of shrubs, and flowering plants, most of which he started from clippings from the many yards he has tended over the years. These perenials are augmented yearly by the tasteful addition of a variety of annuals, giving even more color and flair. It has won the local Chamber of Commerce's "Yard of the Month" Award for its design and sheer beauty. Walter is not a selfish person. In my yard are many plants that the started at home, nurtured until they were ready for transplanting, and then brought them here and planted them in just the right spot. Walter has offered his expertise to the city. Many of the public parks feature beautiful azaleas lovingly planted by Walter over the years.
Walter's garden is a cornucopia of culinary delights that he gladly shares. Summer brings home-grown tomatoes (nothing like them), squash, cucumbers, and the piece de resistance, Silver Queen Corn, the best sweet white corn on the face of the earth. In the fall, after the first frost, of course, to ensure the maxminum sweetness of the harvest, we gather many heads of collards. These we prepare, enjoying some right away and freezing a large quantity for future use.
I love my time spent with Walter. He has interesting stories about growing up on a farm in a neighboring county. He still owns land there, farmed by others. He is a proud U.S. Army veteran, having served his country in North Africa and Italy in W.W. II. He has tales of these experiences also. He is also quite a social commentator, decrying the lack of work ethic and interest in education so prevalent in many of the youth in his home town. It mystifies him.As evident from the fact that he is a veteran of W.W. II, Walter is no spring chicken. He is 83 years old, always reminding me that he was born on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Armistace Day. His eyesight has failed some, due to glaucoma, such that he can no longer drive. He would gladly walk to my house to work, and has done so on occasions when I was detained at work, but it is my pleasure to pick him up and visit during the drive to my house. So I try to arrange my schedule to be able to get him. Working in the yard with him is a pleasure. But, his productivity falls off some, as does mine when we work together, because we both love to talk. And, talking does not get the job done.
Walter has slowed down some. He sometimes forgets to put the tools away when he leaves. Sometimes, due to his failing eyesight, he misses a patch of lawn when mowing or misses a weed or two when cleaning out the flower beds. No big deal. I have 20 years on him, so I pull out the mower or pull out the remaining weeds and finish the task that is 99+ % completed. He no longer works, "Thank you Jesus", when he deems it too hot or too cold for outdoor activity. But, he still gives me more than my money's worth every day he visits my yard.
So, as long as Walter wishes, he will be welcome to come to my yard and be reimbursed for his time, whether it is to pursue his passion for plants and yardwork, or simply sit back in a yard chair, drink some ice water or sweet iced tea, and enjoy the beauty of the years of his handiwork. For this exceptional man is more than a yardman, he is a dear friend, like part of the family.